You've written to her with questions about what you want to do in the kitchen -- and she responded.
Sara Moulton Answers Your Questions
Carol: I am an experienced cook, but I have trouble with pie crusts, whether for a savory quiche or a sweet dessert tart. I sometimes have great luck, but other times the dough does not roll out easily, and I end up trying to press it into the tart pan with my hands. It sometimes crumbles and does not hold together, therefore does not roll out well. Does that mean I am not putting enough water into the dough? Is there something else I could be doing wrong? Is there a perfect proportion of flour to butter to water that I should use? Every recipe I read seems a little different on these proportions. Thanks so much for any help you can give!
Sara's Answer: Carol
Unfortunately, because we measure our ingredients but don't weigh them (as they do in Europe) there is going to be a lot of fluctuation in the end results. A cup of flour is not a precise measurement, yet a recipe will tell you to use a cup of flour and then give you an exact amount of butter and water to add to it. It sounds to me like you need to add a little more water to your pie dough. It is probably falling apart because there is not enough liquid in there to hold the flour together. But your dough could also be falling apart because it has gotten too warm. Next time you make it, add a little extra ice water (like a teaspoon or two at a time). Grab some of the dough and squeeze it together, if it seems to hold together well, then you have added enough water. If it doesn't hold together, add a little more water. Chill the dough for at least an hour before you roll it out (this lets the gluten in the flour relax so the dough will be tender) and then let it sit for 15 minutes at room temperature. If the dough starts to feel soft when you roll it out, which means it has gotten too warm, then pop it back in the fridge to let it chill briefly before you continue rolling it out.
Jenny: I have two questions about pie baking. First how do you keep a pie crust from burning when you blind bake it? Second what is your preferred dish/pan for baking pies? Metal, glass, ceramic?
Sara's Answer: Jenny
I like to use a glass pie plate because it is a good conductor of heat, which helps the crust brown nicely and evenly. But I also like the glass material because you can actually pick up the crust and see how browned it is getting (before it gets too dark). A black tin pie plate might make your pie dough burn.
Also, blind bake the pie crust on the middle shelf of the oven. If you put it on a shelf in the bottom of the oven that could make it burn too.